Even if you've never heard of Moby (a.k.a. Richard Melville Hall, a descendant of Herman Melville), there's a good chance you've heard his work. His atmospheric sounds provide the soundtrack to television commercials and films such as Seabiscuit and Heat, as well as a recent James Bond. Known for bringing electronic music to the mainstream, he's sold over 14 million records. He creates albums in the studio he built in the spare bedroom of his Manhattan apartment. Nearby is a vegetarian restaurant—that he co-founded—where he likes to play Scrabble.
Does anyone call you Richard?
My old dentist. Apart from that, no.
When did you start playing music?
I started out playing classical guitar when I was 9 years old. My mother was a pianist. I played in punk rock bands growing up. We practiced in my basement, and the drummers would always leave their drum sets there—so I taught myself how to play drums. And then when electronic stuff, like samplers, became more affordable, I started teaching myself how to engineer. On one hand, it's nice being able to do everything myself; on the other hand, it is a little bit lonely.
Is that why you share so much of your life on your Web site?
There are some public figures who are very private and almost hide behind their work. I try to be as open as possible.
Are you looking for a response? Is the dialogue important?
I grew up as an only child. I live alone and I work alone. Communicating with the public is a way to get a better perspective on what I'm doing.
You even talk about your panic attacks. When did they start?
I've had them since I was 19, when I tried LSD—my one and only time trying LSD. I didn't like it very much. About a week later, I started having panic attacks. I didn't know what they were. Now I'm fine. Every now and then, I'll have too much caffeine, be stressed out about work and be in a relationship that's not going well, and it will happen again.
How do you get yourself out of it?
Patience. I just tell myself, listen, I've dealt with this a thousand times before, it always ends. There's a part of you that always feels like this is never going to end. But then it does.
Your apartment is pretty bare. Is that a conscious effort?
I don't like things very much. I like being surrounded by a space that I think is really beautiful. There's no one thing I could have that's as beautiful as sun coming in through skylights against a nice brick wall.